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Forwards the Knicks might have available to them at No. 9 in NBA Draft

Villanova's Mikal Bridges cuts the net as he

Villanova's Mikal Bridges cuts the net as he celebrates winning the national championship against Michigan on April 2 in San Antonio. Credit: AP / David J. Phillip

CHICAGO — The Knicks have a new coach and they know where they’re going to pick in next month’s draft. Now the real work begins.

A Knicks contingent, including team president Steve Mills, general manager Scott Perry, assistant GM Gerald Madkins and coach David Fizdale, are in Chicago for the NBA Draft Combine that begins Thursday.

Those four, plus one or two Knicks scouts, began interviewing the prospects on Wednesday, which Perry said is a critical part of the process for a team that’s rebuilding and stressing player development.

“To me that’s as important as evaluating talent,” Perry said. “We’ve been watching these guys play so we have a little better handle on their physical skill. But it’s going to be really important to find out who these guys are as people, what kind of character they really embody and project how they would fit with us.”

The Knicks didn’t beat the odds in Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery. After finishing with the ninth-worst record, they will pick ninth on June 21. But Perry said the Knicks will interview prospects across the board in case there’s a possibility for a trade.

They can meet with a maximum of 20 players at the combine. But they can always bring others into New York for workouts and interviews.

“I think you have an idea, a loose idea, of where guys may or may not fall in the draft,” Perry said. “Obviously you want to talk to as many guys as you project in your range. But also, historically, I’ve liked to try to broaden that range because going into the draft you never know what could occur.

“There may be trade opportunities to move up or down, whatever the case may be. So I think it’s important for us as an organization to know as much about all these guys as we can regardless of where they’re projected.”

The Knicks’ most glaring need is a wing player, and preferably one who can shoot. But Perry said the Knicks are “still in that talent-acquisition mode.” So he wouldn’t limit himself to selecting a small forward.

But Perry acknowledged he was looking forward to speaking with Villanova’s Mikal Bridges and Michigan State’s Miles Bridges. Both could be available when the Knicks select.

Perry also downplayed the possibility of selecting a guard unless the Knicks believe he’s better than what they have on the roster.

The Knicks have three point guards under contract: Trey Burke, last year’s lottery pick Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay. They also have shooting guards Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Ron Baker, who has a $4.5-million player option.

Here are some forwards who could be available with the ninth pick in the NBA Draft and will be at the combine.

Mikal Bridges

The 6-7 junior is one of the more polished players expected to be taken in the lottery, and he comes from a winning program. He helped Villanova win two NCAA titles in three years and fits what the Knicks need. He’s long, athletic, can shoot and plays defense.

Michael Porter Jr.

The 6-10 combo forward is a bit of a wild card after back surgery sidelined him for all but three games as a freshman at Missouri. His workouts and physical exams will determine whether he will be a top-5 pick or drop.

Miles Bridges

The 6-7 forward from Michigan State is considered to be more of a power forward than small forward. Bridges is strong, athletic and explosive, but he’s better around the rim than as a shooter.

Kevin Knox

The 6-9 freshman should be NBA ready after playing for John Calipari at Kentucky. He’s a good shooter with range, can score off the dribble and has shown he can be a catch-and-shoot player as well.

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